Any natural or synthetic organic compound consisting of a noncrystalline (amorphous) solid or viscous liquid substance or mixture. Natural resins are usually transparent or translucent yellow to brown and can melt and burn. Most are exuded from trees, especially pines and firs (see conifer), when the bark is injured or stripped. The fluid secretion usually dries out and hardens into a material that can be worked. Natural resins have been used in perfumes and medicines (e.g., balsams), in paints and varnishes (e.g., turpentine and shellac, the latter derived from the secretion of an insect), and in decorative ware (e.g., amber, Oriental lacquer). Synthetic resins are all plastics; the term resin, though still used in the modern industry, dates from the years when synthetics began to replace natural resins. Thermoplastic resins are plastics such as polyethylene that can be shaped repeatedly on reheating, whereas thermosetting resins are plastics such as epoxy that set permanently and cannot be reshaped.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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